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Title: Realism

  • 1850-1914

Historical Background
  • America transformed from a decentralized,
    agricultural nation to a modern industrial nation
  • Americans took up arms against one another to
    determine who should prevail North or South?
    Federal Union or states rights? Freedom or
  • The North won, but at a devastating cost to the

Prelude to the War . . . The Fugitive Slave Act
  • The disagreements between N/S was not new, but
    was rekindled in 1850 with the passage of the
    Fugitive Slave Act which required all citizens
    (free and slave states) to catch runaway slaves
  • N/S began to compete for the virgin soil of

Uncle Toms Cabin
  • Uncle Toms Cabin was published in 1852by
    Harriet Beecher Stowe.
  • Caused more strife as it vividly depicted the
    cruelty of slavery
  • Became a powerful anti-slavery weapon
  • Then, Harpers Ferry took place in West Virginia

Harpers Ferry
  • John Brown (an antislavery extremist) hoped to
    provoke an armed slave revolt
  • He raided an arsenal at Harpers Ferry
  • Attempt failed and Brown was executed for treason
  • His death fed the controversy, and threats

Union Is Dissolved
  • Lincoln was elected in 1860 and dedicated to
    halting slavery
  • After shots were fired at Ft. Sumter, everyone
    anticipated a short war ending in victory . . .

The War
  • The carnage of Antietam, where over 26,000 were
    killed in one day
  • The starvation in Vicksburg where ppl survived by
    eating dogs and rats
  • The destruction of Georgia
  • The war was not short, but 4 years.
  • Nearly 620,000 soldiers died and 500,000 were

The Aftermath
  • A war-torn and weary nation (1865)
  • Lincoln was assassinated before reconstruction
    and reconciliation the Union and days after Lee
  • America began westward expansion, especially
    after Homestead Act (1862)
  • First transcontinental railroad (1869)
  • Native Americans forced from their land

  • Focus on the lives of ordinary people rejected
    heroic and adventurous
  • Anti-materialism rejected new class system
  • Found meaning in the common place
  • Stressed the actual as opposed to the imagined
  • Literature from this period has been criticized
    as crude, base, and unimaginative

The Gilded Age
  • Trappings of American life electricity,
    telephones, automobiles, notion pictures, and
    phonographs. Then there was mass production,
    skyscrapers, department stores, air pollution,
    crime, and slums
  • Immigration fueled urban growth and cheap labor
  • New extremes of wealth and poverty

The Gilded Age implies a thin veneer of glitter
over something of poor quality.
Literature of the Period
  • Slave spirituals (work songs, war songs,
    lullabies, and laments)
  • Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin was the
    1st book to sell 1 million copies
  • Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, published
    The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    it indicts slavery
  • Wartime voices from journals, diaries, speeches,
    and short stories
  • Frontier Voices from journals, short stories,
    novels and poems

A New Literary Movement
  • The harsh reality of frontier life, coupled with
    the reactions to the Civil War (shattered
    idealism) gave rise to Realism
  • Realism began after the Civil War

Defining Realism
  • Realism depicted realistic details of ordinary
    people (speech, dress, and behavior), loneliness,
    cultural isolation, and customs
  • Writing from this period was presented as slice
    of life

Literature Cont.
  • Frederick Douglas (1817-1895)
  • -An escaped slave one of the most effective
    orators of his day
  • -Influential newspaper writer
  • -His autobiography reveals his life and
    courage- My Bondage and My Freedom

Literature Cont.
  • The Frontier (1865-1915)
  • -Mark Twain (1835-1910)
  • -Samuel Clemens is thought to be one of
    the greatest American novelists and humorists
  • -Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras
  • -Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • -Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-one of
    Americans most influential novels
  • -Famous for using vernacular, exaggeration, and

  • Realism was a reaction against Romanticism told
    it like it was
  • Realists viewed nature as a powerful and
    indifferent force beyond mans control
  • Realists tried to write truthfully and
    objectively about ordinary people in ordinary
    circumstances and about things experienced and
    not about heroic adventures

Time Period
  • Civil War brings demand for a truer type of
    literature that doesnt idealize people or places
  • People in society are defined by class
  • A reflection of Darwin (survival of the fittest)
    and Marx (how money and class structure control a

Time Period
  • What information have you learned in history that
    could have influenced the realist writers?

  • A offshoot of Realism
  • Depicts real people in real situations
  • BUT believed larger forces (ie. nature, fate,
    heredity) shaped ones destiny
  • So, despite aims to change a specific social
    problem, nature always wins
  • Heredity, environment, physical drives, and
    economic circumstances decide ones destiny
  • Hence, people have no control over events or
  • Freewill is an illusion

Naturalism- Concepts
  • The naturalist writer dissects human behavior
    objectively like a scientist. The characters
    have limited choices and motivations and live by
  • Dominant themes survival, fate, violence,
    nature as an indifferent force

Naturalism- Literature
  • Stephen Crane
  • -Crane attacked patriotism, individualism,
    organized religion
  • -Cranes writing is known for its images and
  • -Red Badge of Courage- most famous (set in
    Civil War)
  • -An Episode of War

Naturalism- Literature Cont.
  • Jack London
  • -Pushed Naturalism to its limits
  • -Call of the Wild (tame dog forced to revert
    to his original primitive state)
  • -To Build a Fire (survival of the fittest)

  • Characteristics
  • Uses regional dialect
  • Uses vivid description of the landscape
  • Uses local color to highlight characteristics and
    details unique to a specific area
  • Captures physical environment
  • Captures mood of the time and place
  • Depicts the ways in which people talk and how
    they think.

Regionalism- Time Period
  • Extension of Realism
  • Literature of the period
  • -Bret Harte (1836-1902)
  • -Outcasts of Poker Flat
  • -Kate Chopin (1851-1904)
  • -The Awakening
  • -Willa Cather (1873-1947)
  • -A Wagner Matinee
  • -won Pulitzer Prize
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